Canadian sailor missing in Baltic Sea

A search is underway for a Canadian sailor believed to have fallen overboard during a naval exercise in the Baltic Sea off Poland.

A search is underway for a Canadian sailor believed to have fallen overboard during a naval exercise in the Baltic Sea off Poland.

Eight ships and five helicopters are scouring the sea for Leading Seaman Robert Leblanc, 24, who was last seen on the deck of HMCS Montreal around 6:30 p.m. AT Tuesday.

Lieut. Pat Jessop, a navy spokesperson, said about 2,500 people are searching for Leblanc, including local fishermen.

HMCS Montreal was sailing with a NATO reaction force about 50 kilometres off Poland when the ship's crew discovered Leblanc was missing.

After the sailor failed to report for his shift, the crew searched the entire ship twice.

When he failed to turn up after that, the crew put in a report that they had lost someone, presumably overboard. The ship retraced its route and started a search-and-rescue operation.

A navy official describes Leblanc as a young but experienced sailor who has been on several deployments.

"He's certainly not new to going to sea so we're not exactly sure how this could have happened," said Lieut. Sue Stefko, a navy spokesperson in Halifax.

Leblanc may have been wearing a winter jacket, which could act as a floatation device in the 1 C water.

The Canadian frigate had been to sea for the past three days after a brief stop in Copenhagen. The ship left Halifax on Jan. 15 for the six-month NATO exercise.